Back to School: How will new national curriculum affect your children?

PUBLISHED: 07:00 03 September 2014 | UPDATED: 12:02 03 September 2014

The new national curriculum comes into effect this year. Photo: David Davies/PA Wire

The new national curriculum comes into effect this year. Photo: David Davies/PA Wire

It is a question parents have asked children since the first school opened: “What did you learn today?”

Academies do not have to follow national curriculum

Brian Conway is headteacher of Notre Dame High School in Norwich – an academy – and a primary school governor.

Academies, whether primary or secondary schools, do not have to follow the national curriculum, but they do have to offer a “broad and balanced” curriculum.

But Mr Conway said academies would still look “very carefully” at the new curriculum, because end-of-primary-school tests and GCSEs would reflect change to the curriculum.

On the primary curriculum, he said: “Whilst there has been a lot of nervousness about computing in schools, there has been a lot of support for schools, which means it’s going to be more straight forward.

“It’s not as difficult as perhaps people think.

“It’s not a revolution in the curriculum, it’s an evolution.”

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From this week onwards, some of the answers may be a little different, and some parents may find helping with homework a little trickier, as the new national curriculum comes into effect.

In an Association of Teachers and Lecturers survey, more than 60pc of teachers said their school was not “fully prepared”, and 81pc said teachers had not had enough time to implement it.

Jill Duman, an education adviser at Norfolk County Council, said: “The national curriculum does not tell teachers how to teach. It gives the content, but not the ‘how’. It’s up to the school to decide the best way to deliver that to the pupils.”

She said there were two main changes to the primary curriculum – foreign languages, and computing.

Many primary schools in Norfolk already teach a foreign language but from now on, it is a requirement for children aged seven and over.

She said: “Parents of children in Norfolk may not notice any change, because we have an enormous legacy of language teaching in our primary schools. “The difference could be that rather than modern foreign languages, schools can choose to teach something like Latin.”

She said many schools would stick to the Norfolk model, where children are taught one language in Years 3-4, and another in Years 5-6, to help them gain language acquisition skills. They may then study a different language at high school.

ICT will be replaced with computing, and Ms Duman said: “It’s quite fundamentally different in some aspects.”

It will see infants taught how to write and develop their own computer programs as well as learn how to store and retrieve data.

From 11 to 14, students will be taught coding, and how to solve computer problems.

Much of the initial furore over the draft curriculum centred on the proposed focus on British history, taught in chronological order over the course of a child’s time at school, meaning the Victorians and Second World War would no longer be taught in primary school.

The final curriculum is broader.

For Key Stage 1, the curriculum includes changes within living memory; significant historical events, people and places in the locality and the lives of significant individuals, who can be used to compare life in different periods – such as Elizabeth I and Queen Victoria.

For Key Stage 2, it includes the achievements of the earliest civilisations and a non-European society that provides a contrast with British history, as well as British history.

So how much of a challenge is it for our primary schools to deliver?

Ms Duman said: “I think it will be an on-going process. I don’t think there is a school in the county who can say, hand on heart, ‘one the first day we are completely ready’.

“With curriculum design, it should be an ongoing process.

“There’s no doubt there will be a need for up-skilling for staff, particularly around computing. Maybe not so much around languages, as we have a strong tradition of language teaching in Norfolk. It’s a very mixed bag. There are some schools who have spent the whole of the last year preparing, and some are catching up.”

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